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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Record sales for 'cheap' albums
Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake is a big album seller of 2003 so far
A record number of albums were sold in the UK in the last year because they are now cheaper than ever, industry figures have revealed.

More than 228 million albums were sold in the 12 months from June 2002 - up 3% on the previous year - according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

And they were on sale for an average of 9.79 each, which is a new low, the BPI said.

But despite the healthiest album sales recorded, music industry profits are down.

Click here to read your views on record prices

The BPI said the total UK music market for the first six months of 2003 was down 7% in sales values, compared with last year.

Artists such as Robbie Williams, whose Escapology album has sold 1.8 million in the UK since its November release, have dominated the album charts in recent months.

Other album successes have come from Norah Jones, with sales of 1.5 million, and Avril Lavigne and Justin Timberlake, with 1.2 million each.

Five years ago (1998): 210 million
Ten years ago (1993): 153 million
Twenty-five years ago (1978): 107 million
CD prices have dropped as record shops have been forced to compete with supermarkets and websites, which are able to sell them for less.

Tesco recently said it had overtaken Virgin to become the UK's third-largest music retailer.

"It is clear that cheap retail prices on offer to the consumer, combined with strong new release titles, are sustaining the UK album market at a high level," a BPI statement said.

Norah Jones
Norah Jones: Sold 1.5 million albums in the UK
A spokesman said inflation had been taken into account when assessing how the average retail price compared with previous years.

But while sales increased, lower prices meant the value of the albums market was down 2%.

Along with sliding singles sales, they helped push the overall value of record sales down by more than 4%, the BPI said.

And the problems for the record companies were compounded by a 26% drop in both the value and volume of singles sold.

"Although an annual total of 41 million units compares favourably with virtually every other international territory, the fact remains that demand has halved within the last five years," the BPI said.

You told us your views on the price of CDs. Please see below for a selection of your comments.

Profits are down despite record sales only because the record industry have had to cut back on their massive profit margin to compete with piracy. That sales are up clearly shows piracy is not killing the industry, as they would have us believe.

All piracy has done is smash the record industries hold on the market, forcing them to sell records at more reasonable prices. It is pay back time for the great CD caper; produce something cheaper than vinyl and sell it for far more; then lower the quality of vinyl to promote sale of CD systems. Tsk. Tsk. No sympathy here.
David, UK

I gave up buying CDs in retail outlets some years ago. The mark-up at retail in the UK has always been excessive. Web sites and 'clubs' often offer much better value. But the cost of CDs - especially classical recordings - is still far too high in the UK compared to the costs of production and to the retail prices in many overseas markets.
Brian, UK

I am the webmaster of www.dontbuycds.org Outrageously inflated prices are one of the reasons we started the site in the first place. At last, here is proof that people will buy when the price is reasonable. The legitimate record labels could put counterfeiters out of business if they would just stop price gouging, and be reasonable.

Now, the recording labels globally need to follow the UK's lead in pricing, as well as to stop making "copy controlled" CDs, and leaving file traders alone. If they do, eventually all will be forgiven.
Matthew Brown, USA

Thanks to the internet retailers I can buy what I can't get in a chain store filled with junk from automated radio playlists
Rob, USA
I'm wondering where people in the US are finding CDs for $9.99 - in the music stores near me CDs are priced $16 - $20 at all times. I bought a bunch of CDs in Paris, and even with the terrible exchange rate, CDs were still cheaper.

I think people are getting bored with the mostly terrible and repetitive music being produced today. Worse, the good quality CDs are usually more expensive than pop albums, driving many potential buyers to P2P programs such as Kazaa. If companies lowered the prices on some of their older material, they would be making more money than with these great albums gathering dust on a shelf somewhere.
Lauren , NYC, USA

It's not about price, it's about quality and earned dedication. Produce quality and it will sell. Contrive garbage for a quick buck and you'll eventually sell yourself and the pseudo artists out. File sharing should be a blessing to the recording industry. It spreads the word with no investment but today we're left with no place to buy the real art.

Thanks to the internet retailers I can buy what I can't get in a chain store filled with junk from automated radio playlists. Thanks to the record companies for making American DJs some of the most musically ignorant people around.
Rob, USA

The record companies are now paying the well deserved price for their greed and ignorance. Anyone with an ounce of business sense could see that the Internet would prove to be the ideal delivery system for the entertainment industry. The Record industry executive dinosaurs stuck their heads in the sand and counted their money when they should have been paying attention, now they're scrambling and they expect us to sympathise - I think not!
Isabella Eadie, United States

The things are cheap to make and package, so pile them high and sell in bulk!
Nick Reeves, UK
How can it be that the BPI can quote average prices for CDs at below 10, any visit to a central London record store will make a lie of this quote. However, the interesting part of the quote is that they are saying that sales are at a record high, which contradicts all the outrage from record companies that the internet is damaging CD sales!
Steve Crawshaw, UK

When will the record companies realise that people don't want a one-hit wonder - they want a band that thay can get into for a few years. Invest in some decent long lasting bands (just think of the albums you can sell).
Andy Qua, UK

What a lot of whinging! In 1970, when I started record collecting, a full price LP cost around 2.25. At retail price inflation, that translates to around 23, so in real terms the price of a CD equivalent (which generally contains more material than an LP) has fallen. If profit margins are small, there is little incentive for experimentation in the music industry, and record makers will stick to proven formula stuff, instead of taking the risks associated with adventure in music.
Alex, UK

My daughter wanted to buy me the Travelling Wilburys CD as a replacement for a very old tape that I still sometimes play in the car. She found that copies of this CD now trade for 30 secondhand, as the record company no longer produce it. So much for the ability to replace the back catalogue of tape and vinyl. I would have liked to buy it but looks like its only now only available via internet download.
Dave B, UK

A tenner is a fair price, if the music is good. And for all those people complaining about the state of music today, look outside of the top 40. There are many hundreds of great bands: you just have to stray from the charts.
Craig, UK

I can buy most of the CDs I want in Thailand at 3 each. Not knock-offs but genuine goods on which royalties etc. are all paid. Allowing for higher rents, wages and taxes that should translate to 6 in the UK
Jim, Scotland
I gave up buying CDs more than 2 years ago. If the prices were around 5 I would buy perhaps 2 a month, and at 2.50 I would buy about 5 a week. So does the record business want more than 500 a year from me or not?! The things are cheap to make and package, so pile them high and sell in bulk!
Nick Reeves, UK

If shoppers in the UK think 9.99 is a bargain, I have news for you - you're still getting ripped off. You should be getting them for 7.99 or less!
Jerry, NZ

Music industry profits are falling? Fantastic!!! I wouldn't buy meat from the supermarket that was 80% gristle, and similarly I refuse to buy albums by manufactured artists with 2 decent songs and the rest sub-standard fillers. With artists making around 1 per CD album sold I think it's about time the industry fat cats got their just desserts.
Liam, UK

I can buy most of the CDs I want in Thailand at 3 each. Not knock-offs but genuine goods on which royalties etc. are all paid. Allowing for higher rents, wages and taxes that should translate to 6 in the UK. Those of you who consider a tenner a fair price need to look around a bit more.
Jim, Scotland

Ken, England, I can't stand back and let you hype HMV as being the only chain that gives you a refund if you don't like something - the smaller chain Fopp have been doing this for years and their prices are very low compared to HMV. Maybe that's why they're opening more shops, cos they are getting happy customers!
Abi, England

10 is roughly how much CDs have been in North America for around 10 years, without much change. I can only imagine that British record industry profits have gone down, considering how much they were milking their customers before.
Stanton MacKellar, Canada

Perhaps these figures reflect the quality of the music on offer. Today we have endless releases of poor quality, cheap, electronic-sounding music performed by plastic-faced models instead of good, decent, original music performed by genuinely talented musicians
Danny Williams, UK
Over the last couple of weeks I've downloaded ten of the Mercury Music Prize finalists, so that I could compare them for myself. I'll probably never listen to seven of them again. Even at 8.99 per album I can't afford to do this legitamately. How low do they have to drop their prices to make this sort of comparison listening affordable? 3.99 per album? 2.99?
Douglas, UK

Am I alone in not understanding the attraction of downloading music from the internet? The sleeve notes, the smell of the vinyl, the authenticity of the product are all integral and cannot be adequately replicated on-line. Like Coke I prefer the real thing.

However, Ebay is very addictive for buying back catalogue items at good prices. Most high street stores are over-priced and perhaps the internet is the best way for artists and smaller labels to sell direct to the consumer without the middle man?
David Spencer, UK

It's amazing how only a few months ago the record companies were whining, how music piracy was killing the business! Good talent = good record sales. I also think the average consumer is more willing to risk 9 or 10 on purchasing an unlistened to album rather than 15.
Jez, UK

Perhaps these figures reflect the quality of the music on offer. Today we have endless releases of poor quality, cheap, electronic-sounding music performed by plastic-faced models instead of good, decent, original music performed by genuinely talented musicians. Maybe the record buying public are fed up with essentially buying the same thing over and over.
Danny Williams, UK

Although CDs have come down in price, everywhere they should be no more than 8.99 for an album. They are now so cheap to produce but all the record companies are yet again ripping us off. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a lower price and more units would be sold? Obviously the powers that be cannot see this!
Antony Forst, England

The music business must now modernise or die. It's as simple as that
Robin, UK
I feel that albums are just about the right price.

Record companies and radio stations, in my view, push people toward downloading illegal tracks. The time between when you first hear a new single on Radio 1 and the time when you are able to buy it is way too long. During that time it is played so frequently that you are sick of it by the time it's released.
Chris, Bristol, UK

The fact is these companies have been living on profits derived from over-inflated prices for far too long. If reality is now catching up with them I have no sympathy whatsoever. Let them rot.
Rob, UK

My girlfriend and I run a small punk label called Running Riot Records. A CD album we are about to release is going to have a unit cost of about 1.20 each, this includes the cost of recording, pressing, promotion etc.

This means that we are going to be able to sell the album for 6 each, and still be able to make a healthy profit for both us and the band.

What's more, we'll be selling it for a price that's fair to us, the band and the end conusmer... quite why more record labels can't take this attitude is absurd - I expect when you are procuding CDs in the quantity they do (ie 100s of 1000s) the unit cost is 1/4 of that price.

Oh, and if we all went back to vinyl, I doubt any of this would have happened in the first place! Viva Le Vinyl!
Jon, UK

It's pay back time for all of us who have been powerless to arrest the rise in the price of cds, since their introduction in the early 80s
John Moto, UK
When I emigrated from the USA I was appalled by the price of CDs Over Here. Simply placing a over a $ seemed to be the norm. For the last 6 years I've been either buying locally (less overheads) or ordering from Amazon.com. Otherwise, the UKoGBaNI rocks!
E.S. Holmans, UK

I just bought an album by James Brown for 8.99 from the internet (free postage) and HMV are trying to sell the same album for 16.99! Says it all really.
Greg, Wales

I disagree with those that say you can't get non-chart albums cheaply online. I buy all my cds from play, very few of which have been anywhere near a chart for many years and even then were hardly mainstream. Sure the price may rise to say 9.99 or even 10.99 but it sure beats the 17 HMV ask for the same item. That's if they stock it at all. The music business must now modernise or die. It's as simple as that.
Robin, UK

What makes me laugh is that places such as HMV and Virgin will charge you anything up to 18 for a CD the more old it is! CD WOW is great but takes 3-5 working days to come in the post so you are forced to use the main stores if you want to listen to a CD desperately.
John, UK

It's pay back time for all of us who have been powerless to arrest the rise in the price of cds, since their introduction in the early 80s. I can't understand the mentality of those who will insist on paying top whack for a consumer durable that costs mere pennies to manufacture.
John Moto, UK

The record industry is still operating on the same values as it had 20 years ago and it isn't moving foward fast enough. It needs to provide the consumer with online pay for downloads of all artists in a high quality format, until that happens then the record industry will keep losing out and the consumer will look for alternative ways to buy/download music.
Greg, UK

Music quality has been spiralling downwards for years, with more attention paid to image than the music itself today. On top of this, prices in the shops are ridiculously high
Rod Taylor, UK
Perhaps if record companies spent a little less on hyping up the new signings, only to drop them a few months down the line and repeat the process all over again, the profit margins would be a little higher.
Fiona, Scotland

I get new-release albums from internet stores, such as CD-WOW or Play, as I believe 8.99 is a fair price. The only time I ever buy albums from the high street is when there are sales or "3 for 20" offers, and this is usually to complete collections of a particular artist/band.
Jason Bytheway, UK

I stopped buying CDs when the price rose over 10 back in the early nineties. Now the price has dropped below 10 at Tescos I've started buying again.

The file sharing networks are providing competition to the music biz monopoly and this is all good for the consumer. The monopolies and mergers commission should be defending Kazaa...
Andy, UK

Music quality has been spiralling downwards for years, with more attention paid to image than the music itself today. On top of this, prices in the shops are ridiculously high - just compare UK prices with online shops or shops in North America or Europe. Put these factors together, and it's no wonder that sales are down!
Rod Taylor, UK

With chart CDs available in the supermarkets for 9.99, I cannot understand why people are still buying the same chart albums in stores like HMV for 13.99. Yes they offer a wider range of albums, but for the chart CDs consumers would be silly to look anywhere other than supermarkets or the internet.
Nick, UK

Cheaper CDs are good for the industry and the consumer. I used to buy only 5-6 CD's a year because I thought the shop prices were a rip-off. Now that I can buy cheaply from cd-wow, I've started to vary my selections, explore new artists and ultimately spend a lot more on music every year. How can that be bad for the industry?
Ger Couglan, Ireland

What a surprise, when prices are more reasonable, people buy more. The reason sales have been so low is the greed of the record industry
David, UK
As an ex-music industry employee, I am fully aware of just how cheap a CD is to manufacture and just how much the greed of both the record company and then the record store pushes the prices up to their obscene levels. Chart CDs could drop to the 6 range and still the artists, record companies and retailers would make decent profits - and would compete against the illegal downloads. Until the music industry realises that the greed-fuelled days of the 80s and early 90s are over, consumers will continue to be ripped off and will, quite rightly, download stuff or obtain it via other means.
Duncan, UK

When will the music industry realise that they are sitting on a goldmine of back catalogue music which is generally unavailable in the shops? If this was available online at say 50p per track, I'm sure the execs in their suits would stop moaning about file sharing. Bring it on!!
Chris Turner, England

What a surprise, when prices are more reasonable, people buy more. The reason sales have been so low is the greed of the record industry. Now all they have to do is improve the quality of the output and invest in artists rather than dishing up one hit wonders.
David, UK

Even the prices of the "cheaper" albums brought about through price competition greatly exceed the manufacturing and promotional costs. With demand for CDs at an all time high, one wonders whether the record companies should review their costs and charges rather than worrying about file swapping.
Muzzy, Scotland

Cheap? CDs? At a tenner each? I buy about 200 CDs a year and wouldn't pay more than about a fiver, tops. Remember CDs cost less than vinyl LPs to produce and transport, they should be much cheaper than they are. It's not as if the artist gets any money from them, the cash is all retained by the bloated record companies.
Dave Heasman, England

How can the BPI claim demand has fallen by half over the last five years if last year's sales were a record? Could it be that the industry is trying to cover up their failed arguments about internet piracy?
Wayne, UK

4 for a single song, is it any wonder that demand for singles is down?
Robert Shiels, England
Album prices are still far too high. Only if you're after manufactured pop are you able to find cheap albums on sale. The average price of an album which is in less demand is about 15. It's cheaper to buy many CDs from US websites despite the $20 shipping fees.

With CDs so cheap to manufacture you should be asking where the money is going. The best way to fight piracy would be to lower prices.
Isaac, England

4 for a single song, is it any wonder that demand for singles is down? I used to buy quite a few singles when they were two pounds, but now I just get the album.
Robert Shiels, England

It is just pure economics!! If you can get the same product cheaper then the average punter will do so. It is very pleasing to hear that the price of an album is now less than a tenner and the record industry are having to put up with it. Consumer power is alive and kicking!!
Simon, Brighton, UK

With the current trends in the music industry, I can see a tacit scenario wherein falling profits lead to declining investment in new acts and artistic development, and the mainstream music industry stagnates because the target markets become less tolerant of bland, formulaic releases.
Kenny, UK

I have just come back from the States where I picked up a lot of CDs for $9.99 or less. The record industry is still making a profit at this price, so why can we not see these prices over here? Don't forget that with the exchange rate the CDs are one-third cheaper than the price in dollars.
Steve Withers, UK

Record companies need to undertand that the demand is there at the right price. If they embrace the new media, rather than try and stop it, they can eliminate the huge costs of distribution and retail selling. Investors in record retailers beware!
Richard Halhead, UK

Try making some better products and wake up to fact that we need another Rolling Stones not another Gareth Gates
Stewart, UK
With prices through the Internet at 8.99 including shipping added to rapid shipment and excellent service in many cases, makes experimenting with little known artists or bands a viable approach. Personally I am buying probably 3-4 times the number I did in the past due to the lower costs and convenience of on-line ordering.

The industry seems to forget that downloads drive sales... You buy the album if you like the downloads but not if they suck. Try making some better products and wake up to fact that we need another Rolling Stones not another Gareth Gates SO INVEST IN REAL BANDS and we'll still becbuying their stuff in ten years time!!!!
Stewart, UK

I'd be interested to know how this compares with the situation pre-CD. When everything was on vinyl, the average album price was around 7; then CDs came out and for a while everything shot up to 13 minimum. Yes, margins are tight now - but is this actually a long-overdue correction in a market which inflated itself artificially sometime around rhe late 1980s?
Guy Clapperton, UK

Sadly, the latest excuse is piracy ... it's never poor product, poor decisions and lack of public choice. Strangely, the best selling albums of last year were all real singers/real writers not poor pop acts. Why pay inflated prices when you can get much cheaper from the internet? People will pay if it's worth it!!!
Phil, UK

It puzzles me why the record industry is slating file-downloading as "killing their business"...Is it really THEIR business? They are simply exploiting the talent that is available.

If anyone is killing the record industry, it's the record companies pushing rubbish into the charts.

Once upon a time, the charts used to be based on how good the songs were and the artists would last for decades. Now though, artists last to their first million, then they disappear (or break up as bands).

The music industry isn't about musical art anymore, it's about maximising profits by extorting money from your audience!
Marty, Berkshire, UK

I had to pay 5 for a non-chart single last week!! The record companies deserve all they get
Paul Norman, UK
The music industry seems to be only concerned with constantly increasing profits, and they have been able to get away with it for years, producing far too many poor quality products. Now we have a situation where the consumer is more informed and empowered. We will decide on the future of the music industry - "the customer is always right"! I

n the long term this will improve both the quality and demand for music. In the mean time the good bits of the music industry will prosper but the not-so-good will suffer, and so they should.
Biggles, Norwich, England

Vanella Mead took the words out of my mouth, but the fair point to make is, 8.99 is great when it's new or mainstream, but anything more specialist and these sites either don't stock it or the price is the going rate. HMV's still the only chain left where you can get a no-hassle refund for not liking something, or (quickly) changing your mind about it - and for that, the premium's justified.
Ken, England

This is all very well, but the choice at my local supermarket is VERY limited. You can get everything in the top 20 for less than 10, but it you want something other than that, then you end up paying full price 15.99.

I don't bother with highstreet retailers at all. I can get a much better selection of CDs online, all of them for 8.99 (sometimes even less), free postage, and next day delivery.
Mark Gillespie, UK

CD prices single or album have been a rip-off from day one. They still are. Sure you can buy a relatively restricted range of chart singles or albums at more "reasonable" prices, but step out of the chart and the old rip-off prices are still in full effect. I had to pay 5 for a non-chart single last week!! The record companies deserve all they get.
Paul Norman, UK

I find album and single prices so high in this country that I now buy my music online from the States. Why should I pay to drive to the nearest shop and then pay the extortionate prices when I can have the music delivered to my door for a fraction of the price?
A Jones, UK

Record number of sales???!! One minute the record industry is crying about internet file swapping killing the music industry, the next minute they are trumpeting record increase in sales..... What is going on?
Daz, UK

The price of music is not the biggest problem in my opinion. The real advantage that downloading MP3s has is its convenience. I was pleased when I heard that it was now possible to legally download MP3s from certain sites for 99 cents each. I switched on my computer, fished out my credit card and... discovered that this was only available to customers in the USA. And the music industry wonders why there is so much privacy when they make it more difficult to buy their music than to buy a beer in Wales on a Sunday.
Lewis Paines, Czech Republic

Album and single prices are far too high. With new online services offering singles for download for 75p this is slightly better value. But I think the cat is out of the bag with regard to online file swapping. If cheap downloads had been introduced before file sharing took off then it might have worked. Why would people start buying something that they're now used to getting for free?
Nat, UK

Now, what does this say about the truth of the record industry claims that filesharing is hurting their sales? It would tend to suggest that over-expensive albums are to blame, rather than file sharing for much of the drop in sales. I would suggest that the other main cause in the drop of music sales is the simple lack of quality of much of the material that the record companies produce.
David Newton, UK

I spend a great deal of money on cds each month. I buy most of them on the internet at 8.99 or less, or in the supermarket at less than 10. The reduction in prices just means that I buy more and therefore the profit per cd may be down but, like many other people, I am adding to an overall sales inrease. I like the big chainstores for their choice of product, but how can they justify charging 13.99 for new releases - because they rely on lazy/habitual buyers I suppose.
Jeff, Castleford, England

I think this proves that file sharing isn't killing the music industry, but the need to make ridiculous profit for shareholders. People are fed up of being ripped off. Prices down - sales up. It makes sense.
Leigh, UK

Glad that these figures might finally give the record industry pause for thought in their constant "the internet is killing music" griping. They can and will get very little sympathy from the public for a fall in profits. That's what happens when you can no longer charge 16.99 for something that costs 50p to produce!
Andy, UK

The greed merchants that are the music industry should now take note that it is not file sharing or piracy that has "damaged" their industry but themselves. Their efforts at artificially holding prices as high as possible have backfired, although it is unlikely we will see record company executives living in cardboard boxes. Perhaps they will also provide some choice, rather than Simon Cowell's latest project, and then enter the 21st century rather than the era they seem to have stopped in.
Phil, UK

I think around 10 for an shop-bought album is a fair price. However, record companies need to pass on to consumers the reduced cost of delivering music via the internet if they want them to sign up to subscription services rather than engage in file swaping.
David Watterson, UK

It's about time record prices dropped. Now they are trying to compete against illegal pirate recordings and downloading. 10 for a CD is just right rather than a few months ago when chart CDs were 16.
Scott Vaughan, UK

I won't spend more that 10 on any CD unless its a double or special addition by a band/artist I collect.

I never go to music shops in the UK now and always buy from CD Wow online who are based in Hong Kong and sell the majority of music cd's for 8.99.

There are bargins out there you just have to look for them. Shop around and don't accept the normal high street rip off, from Virgin or HMV.
Vanella Mead, UK

Q&A: Cheaper CDs
18 Aug 03  |  Entertainment
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24 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
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Slump for UK record industry
12 Feb 03  |  Entertainment
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23 Dec 02  |  Entertainment

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